As the Glasgow Film Festival prepares to celebrate its 12th birthday, Alistair Harkness picks 12 must-see films from the programme
It’s been eight years since the Coen brothers last made a flat-out comedy and eight since they last worked with their idiot of choice George Clooney. Coincidence? Perhaps. Set sometime during the dying days of the old Hollywood studio system, Hail, Caesar! finds Clooney in goofball mode for the fourth time in a Coen brothers production, this time playing a movie star kidnapped from the set of the titular epic by a group of Communist screenwriters. A sardonic love-letter to Hollywood with a game all-star cast, this should be the perfect way to kick off this year’s festival.
Time Out of Mind
Richard Gere is more commonly to be found playing slick lawyers or high-flying financiers, but his new film offers an interesting flip-side to his recent role in Arbitrage by casting him as a homeless man coming to terms with his marginalised status on the streets of New York. Low-key and vanity free, it’s one of Gere’s best performances and the actor will be in Glasgow to present the film.
“I lost my mother four-and-a-half years ago to cancer and I grew up in New York, so I figured if I was going to make something I should make something that was dancing around in my head,” says Josh Mond of the inspiration behind his debut feature James White. Following a New York twenty-something (Christopher Abbot) losing control of his life as he cares for his sick mother (a devastating Cynthia Nixon), James White offers raw family drama filtered through the prism of a generation ill-equipped to deal with grown-up issues and makes good on Mond’s past work as a producer on Martha Marcy May Marlene and Simon Killer.
The UK’s premier horror festival will once again invade Glasgow over GFF’s final weekend. Past years have premiered the likes of The Raid and brought cutting edge genre directors such as Ti West to Glasgow. This year kicks off with The Forest, starring Game of Thrones star Natalie Dormer, and promises plenty of other highlights for gorehounds, including Scandanavian disaster movie The Wave, indie horror Anguish and high-octane Hong King actioner SPL2.
Jake Gyllenhaal’s been on a roll of late, so hopefully playing a psychologically numb widower dismantling his life as an extreme form of therapy will continue the trend. Naomi Watts co-stars and Wild’s Jean-Marc Vallée directs.
Con Air at a Secret Location
Jump-suited, shackled and shuttled to an undisclosed location – and that’s just the audience. This themed screening of trashy action classic Con Air promises to be one of the highlights of GFF’s pioneering and increasingly inventive special events strand. There are plenty of other unique screenings too (including more Nic Cage courtesy of a special Elvis-themed presentation of Wild at Heart) – all designed to provide a more immersive movie-watching experience.
The Man Who Fell to Earth at The Planetarium
Speaking of which, this 40th Anniversary screening of The Man Who Fell to Earth offers an unexpectedly perfect way to pay tribute to David Bowie. Ditto the late night screening of DA Pennebaker’s classic documentary Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. It’s a sign, too, of Bowie’s pervasive influence that his 1977 song Sound and Vision had already been chosen as the name of the festival’s on-going music-themed strand, which this year features the premiere of recent Sundance hit Sing Street (from Once director John Carney). Elsewhere in the programme, there’s music aplenty courtesy of Michael Caton-Jones’s new drama Urban Hymn, and Miles Ahead, Don Cheadle’s unconventional biopic of jazz legend Miles Davis, co-starring Ewan McGregor as a Rolling Stone journalist interviewing Davis (Cheadle) about his comeback.
16 Years Till Summer
Lou McLoughlin’s Scottish BAFTA-nominated documentary about a middle-aged man temporarily released from prison to care for his invalid father begins as a gentle story of rehabilitation and reconciliation in the Highlands. But its strength comes from the way it deepens into something more compelling as revelations about its subject’s crime suggest his modest hopes for the future may not be all that achievable.
Chilean director Pablo Larraín’s latest delves into the same harrowing territory as the recent Spotlight, but does so from the even more unsettling perspective of a group of paedophile priests who have been exiled to a “safe house” for their sins. “I was raised Catholic and I met priests who one day were suddenly gone,” says Larraín of the starting point for his dark drama. “I realised this existed all over the world so I was wondering what it was like to be inside one of these houses.” Having previously explored the culture of concealment and oppression in Pinochet’s Chile, the Tony Manero director is no stranger to the sinister ways in which powerful institutions try to cover up their misdeeds. Accordingly, this has shocks aplenty.
Couple in a Hole
Boasting one of the most intriguing premises of any film in the festival, this drama from Belgian director Tom Geens features Kate Dickie and Paul Higgins as a Scottish couple literally living in hole the middle of a French forest. The reason why drives the narrative and the performances have made this one of the most acclaimed oddities on the festival circuit in recent months.
Raiders of the Lost Ark – The Adaptation
Begun in the pre-YouTube 1980s by three Indiana Jones-loving 12-year-olds, this shot-for-shot remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark has become a sort of 25-year-record of how deeply the original film affected three friends from small town Mississippi. Think Boyhood with pocket-money-funded action sequences.
Disney’s latest may seem like a throwback to the early days of the CG animation boom, but this is Disney Animation in the Pixar-challenging wake of Frozen, so expect this tale of a rabbit trying to make it as the first bunny cop on Zootropolis’s interspecies police force to have a little more going on than cute characters. There’s also a special silver anniversary screening of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, the first animated film ever to be nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award. The festival draws to a close on the evening of this year’s ceremony with the official UK premiere of Charlie Kaufman’s Oscar-nominated (and very adult) stop-motion masterpiece Anomalisa.
• The 12th Glasgow Film Festival runs from 17-28 February. For screening details and to order tickets, visit www.glasgowfilm.org/festival